Latinos have never shied away from a fight either against the United States (think U.S-Mexico War) or for the U.S. (Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan). While SB 1070, signed into law last week by Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, gives law enforcement officials the “green light” to enforce federal immigration policy, as a parallel to 287(g), many speculate the decrease in calling law enforcement to crime scenes particularly with undocumented communities. At the same time, speculation that Latinos will be rounded up after weddings and quinceañeras and at our daily favorite restaurants, we must remember that this new law takes effect in less than 90 days. Latinos have seen this before. Despite massive protests on the streets and letter writing campaigns campaigns, in 1994 California passed Proposition 187 which eliminated public services to undocumented residents and led to major discrimination and hate-crimes against Latinos. In 2007, Pennsylvania made it a crime to rent to undocumented Pennsylvanians leading to a downward economic spiral and an exodus of residents impacting entire cities and county budgets. In 2008, Oregon passed a measure eliminating the issuance and certification of a drivers license to undocumented residents. Obviously, cities and counties are laboratories for the states; the states are laboratories for the federal government. Will SB 1070 language begin seeding in other communities or will it be a wake up call to the serious immigration reform talks that need to happen?
Latinos are the last front in the U.S. By 2040 the U.S. Hispanic population is expected to reach or exceed 100 million when one in four persons will be Hispanic making our group the largest and fastest-growing ethnic/racial minority population group in America. Our purchasing power surpassed $1 trillion dollars in 2006 and is growing at an average rate of four billion dollars per month and 50 billion dollars per year. Some pundits have speculated that SB 1070 is aimed at suppressing Latino voters in the November election. The myth on the street and the cable channels is that Latinos are politically apathetic, while far from it, Latinos are registered to vote at a rate six times greater than the general population and turning out to vote at a rate five times greater than the general population. Giving Arizona law enforcement officials authority to ask for individuals proof of residency may curtail the out-of-control violence on the Mexican side of the border by the drug cartels, but slamming innocent hardworking families in the crossfire, and potentially leading to racial profiling.
If history is any indicator, Latinos are not going away. Piolin Por La Mañana asks his Latino callers every time when they call, why they came to the U.S. and the response is always the same: “a triumfar” or “to triumph, to succeed.” It’s a simple reminder that Latinos aim to be part, contribute and build this country stronger just like African-Americans, the Japanese, the Irish and Italians before. America was founded by hardworking immigrants. As a son of immigrants, from my experience, our family has a love for the United States. I don’t believe we can continue to sacrifice and build this country from the ground up and then tell immigrants that they are welcomed, then compromise that contract as SB 1070 just did.
So where is the America that could be?
1. Boycott Arizona. Avoid traveling there and engaging with business headquartered in the Grand Canyon state.
2. Make sure that you and all of your friends and family are registered to vote and are informed about the upcoming midterm elections — and then get out and vote. Conventional wisdom is that we (Latinos and other Americans) don’t turn out in as large of numbers for midterm elections, but our participation is as crucial as ever.